What does it mean to brand your customer service? How often to you think about the type or standard of customer service your business provides?
Wineries focus on building the perfect branding message, but often overlook customer service as a vital part of building and maintaining their brand’s image.
Why Is This Important?
One negative online review can have a lasting impact on your brand. Yet, how often do you take the offensive to prevent poor customer service to avoid customer concerns or complaints?
In working with winery after winery to build or reinforce their brand, I frequently observe that offering stellar customer service isn’t a benchmark included in their brand statement. It is often assumed that the staff is offering the highest standard of customer service. This may not be happening if it isn’t part of staff training and continuously reinforced as part of the company’s philosophy of gracious hospitality.
Customer Service Qualities for Excellence
When asked what to focus on when training employees in the art of good customer service, I share this list as a good place to start:
Know your products, pricing and policies, and be able to answer questions without hesitation
Be friendly, smile and sound like you enjoy interacting with others
Listen and observe, then act according to what you’ve learned
Treat others with respect
Say please and thank you
Don’t take anything personally. Not always easy to do, but essential to maintain your neutrality when dealing with people.
Key Touch Points
Here are some key points when doing a customer service review or audit:
Everyone is a potential customer or influencer of a potential customer – that includes anyone who walks through the door, emails, or calls. Is everyone treated with the same level of respect and courtesy?
Provide staff with phone etiquette training, and make sure it includes incoming and outbound calls.
Coach tasting room staff to listen and observe rather than launch into a pre-set dialog with visitors. Not everyone wants the same experience even if the winery has an outline for it. Train staff to be flexible when working with individuals or a group, and how to read desires and information comfort levels. Some people come for entertainment, while others want education, and some want both.
Just because someone doesn’t want to know a lot of details about a wine, doesn’t mean they won’t buy it. Buying is based on someone’s emotional connection to the brand, and how much they enjoy the wine. Telling someone more about the vineyard’s terroir or winemaking techniques doesn’t translate to them becoming more emotionally connected to the wine. It can just as easily have the opposite effect.
We value our Wine Club members, and work hard to retain them. Make sure every staff member understands any special perks offered to club members, and how to best execute these perks.
As we invite back Wine Club members for tastings and pick-up parties, think of some extra touches you can share with them to show your appreciation for their loyalty. They are your best ambassadors, and a positive online review from a satisfied club member can lead to new Wine Club members.
When a visitor asks for more tastes or other perks, have a funny yet tactful reply prepared. Humor will often maintain the positive tone or break the tension of the moment.
Other customer service aspects to review with staff include:
How to handle customer requests and complaints.
There is a reason for the saying “the customers always right.” It isn’t because they are right, it’s because you don’t want to make them feel like they were wrong. Practice using neutral phrases and avoid pointing out something the customer might have done or said that is considered wrong. Making someone feel like they are wrong is embarrassing for them, and a trigger than can drive them away as a customer.
How do the winery staff, signage, website, reservation system, and social media posts explain your COVID safety protocols? This continues to be important to most visitors, so make sure the information is clear and visible.
How does staff handle visitors who don’t adhere to the stated safety protocols? Don’t make someone feel they were wrong or stupid, but do remind them of your safety rules. By not enforcing your safety protocol, you could be alienating other visitors who are concerned about their own health and safety.
How do you reply to an online review or post, be it negative or positive?
Does someone continuously monitor your online presence? Everyone expects immediate responses, so be sure to try to respond to all comments in a timely manner.
Does your website reflect stellar customer service? Read the copy to see if it answers the most frequently asked questions. Also check out the ease of navigation, especially in the shopping cart and throughout the purchasing process.
Is your reservation system welcoming and easy to use?
Once you’ve applied this to your DtC customers, do a similar review with your wholesale and distributor customers.
Stellar customer service retains customers, and anything less can encourage them to look elsewhere to buy their wines.
Customer service should be a key component of every winery’s branding.
Everyone is a potential buyer or an influencer.
Know what staff is saying and doing no matter the customer’s “status.”
A reputation for stellar customer service will bring you customers, and help you keep the ones you already have.
By routinely doing a customer service review, you’ll discover weaknesses before they create an issue or bad review.